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Housing advocates join with Governor Raimondo to push for increased funding and an end to housing discrimination



Dozens of housing advocates and supporters gathered at the Rhode Island State House on Tuesday to call for increased investments and legislative changes that would support housing for more Rhode Islanders.

Speakers at Tuesday’s event advocated for increased state funding for the construction and preservation of affordable housing and rental subsidies for low-income households. In addition to financial investments[note]

Organizations in support of these legislative priorities include:

  • Church Community Housing Corporation
  • Crossroads Rhode Island
  • Direct Action for Rights and Equality (DARE) Tenant and Homeowner Association
  • Dorcas International Institute of RI
  • Foster Forward
  • The Helen Hudson Foundation
  • House of Hope CDC
  • Housing Network of Rhode Island
  • HousingWorks RI
  • Grow Smart RI
  • Neighborhood Health Plan of RI
  • Neighbors Helping Neighbors RI
  • NeighborWorks Blackstone River Valley
  • Omni Development Corporation
  • ONE Neighborhood Builders
  • PCF Development
  • POAH
  • Public Housing Association of Rhode Island (PHARI)
  • Rhode Island Center for Justice
  • Rhode Island Coalition Against Domestic Violence
  • Rhode Island Coalition for the Homeless
  • Rhode Island Community Action Association
  • Rhode Island Homeless Advocacy Project
  • Rhode Island Interfaith Coalition to Reduce Poverty
  • Rhode Island KIDS COUNT
  • Rhode Island State Council of Churches
  • Smith Hill CDC
  • South County Habitat for Humanity
  • SWAP, Inc.
  • United Way of Rhode Island
  • Washington County CDC
  • West Elmwood Housing Development Corporation
  • Women’s Development Corporation

[/note], speakers also called for the removal of specific barriers to housing, including: banning discrimination against tenants with lawful sources of income (such as government-sponsored rental subsidies); the sealing of court files in housing cases resolved in the tenant’s favor; and the provision of economic assistance for those with one-time or short-term economic barriers to housing.

Tuesday’s announcement event was part of the Homes RI campaign – a collaborative statewide campaign created by local nonprofits, housing organizations, and community stakeholders to shine a spotlight on the need for Rhode Island to better support community development and affordable homes.

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“The path to economic opportunity, good health, and educational success begins at your front door,” said Brenda Clement, director of HousingWorks RI at Roger Williams University. “Every Rhode Islander needs a safe and affordable home.”

“Every Rhode Islander deserves access to decent housing,” said Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo. “This year, we need to work to end housing discrimination in Rhode Island and pass source of income legislation.”

“We believe that everyone deserves a safe, healthy and affordable place to call home,” said Cortney Nicolato, President and CEO of United Way of Rhode Island. “We also know that in Rhode Island it’s becoming more difficult for our friends and family to do so. Data from Housing Works RI tells us 40 percent of Rhode Islanders are cost burdened when meeting their housing costs. At 2-1-1 we saw more than 121,000 calls this past year relating to needs of subsidized, transitional or permanent housing.”

Elizabeth lives in Newport and receives a Section 8 housing voucher from the federal government. There is legislation to prevent landlords from discriminating based on source of incomes, that is, tenants who receive Section 8 vouchers.

Jennifer Wood from the Rhode Island Center for Justice and Malchus Mills from Direct Action for Rights and Equality (DARE) spoke about a bill H5075 that would prevent landlords from discriminating against tenants who have previously exercised their rights against other landlords and won those complaints in court. The bill would require “the sealing of any district court file, where a resolution of a trespass and eviction complaint results in a verdict for the tenant and no appeal is taken.”

See: Video from 2019’s first House Committee on Judiciary

“Community Development Corporations that provide affordable housing don’t just give people a cheap place to live,” said Paul Lowe, a resident of Burrillville. “They help families build their dreams.”

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Steve Ahlquist is a frontline reporter in Rhode Island. He has covered human rights, social justice, progressive politics and environmental news for nearly a decade.

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